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Serbia refuses Zijin Mining’s waste management extension: Environmental challenges emerge

Serbia’s Ministry of Mining and Energy has declined China’s Serbia Zijin Mining company’s request for an extension to its permit to handle mining waste. Despite the expiration of the company’s license for managing mining waste on December 31, 2022, the ministry rejected the extension request in November 2023, though this decision was only made public following an FOI request from the Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute (RERI) in April.

The ministry’s decision was based on Zijin’s failure to provide all necessary documents and data, as outlined in the published decision by RERI. For instance, Zijin’s plan to establish five new landfills lacked adequate information regarding the type of waste to be deposited.

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Having received a license to manage mining waste from Serbia’s mining and energy ministry in October 2021, which subsequently expired in December 2022 without renewal, Zijin’s application for extension was submitted on December 20, 2022.

Despite RERI’s misdemeanor report filed against Zijin for operating without a valid waste management permit, it was rejected in November 2023, with prosecutors citing Zijin’s application for an extension and the absence of harmful consequences from waste disposal.

Expressing concern, RERI’s lawyer, Ljubica Vukcevic, highlighted the potential environmental impact of Zijin’s continued waste disposal without a permit, suggesting potential legal actions against the company pending further analysis of the situation.

Zijin, in response, emphasized the use of advanced technological solutions in constructing its landfills to mitigate environmental risks, asserting that only a small portion of tailings is deposited in covered water bodies to prevent the spread of harmful substances.

Despite ongoing concerns regarding the environmental and health impacts of its operations in the eastern town of Bor, Serbia Zijin Copper company, operator of Serbia’s sole copper complex, plans to expand its mining operations.

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